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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now on day eight of the special session and a lot of time and money are being wasted as we wait for majority Democrats to bring out a supplemental budget bill for a vote.
SPECIAL SESSION UNNECESSARY AND WASTEFUL
It's costing taxpayers $14,000 per day for this special session. That's a lot of money down the drain that could be spent in more productive ways. So far, enough money has been spent that could have funded an entire year's salary of two teachers. It could have funded nearly 12 people for one year on the state's Basic Health Plan. The cost could have paid for: 18 college need grants for the University of Washington or Washington State University; 25 need grants for Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University, or Central Washington University; or 47 need grants to Washington's community colleges. You get the picture!
THE REAL STORY
Now I don't want to sound overly partisan, because we have Republicans, Democrats and Independents throughout our district. But I do want you to understand the real story from behind the scenes here.
Republicans were ready from day one of the regular session in January to roll up our sleeves and restructure the state budget, making sure our spending priorities were kept with education, public safety and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. We offered solutions to close this $2.8 billion budget shortfall WITHOUT RAISING TAXES. We also offered our “Made in Washington” jobs plan to help get people working again in the private sector.
My Republican colleagues and I believe that the long-term solution to our state's budget mess is getting people back to work. When people are working, they have more income to spend. When they spend that income, a portion is collected through sales taxes, which then brings more revenue to the state budget. However, when taxes are increased, the opposite occurs. Jobs are lost, people have less income to spend, and less money comes in to the state budget.
Let's be clear who sets the agenda in Olympia. Democrats have the majority votes in the Legislature. They have 61 votes in the House. Republicans have only 37 votes. In the Senate, Democrats have 31 votes and Republicans have 18 votes.
When we brought our solutions to the table, they were repeatedly rejected by majority Democrats.
THEY WANT MORE TAXES; WE WANT MORE JOBS!
It became quite clear early on that the only solution the majority party was interested in was raising taxes. That's why, despite our protests during 10 hours of floor debate, they voted to gut Initiative 960 to make it easier to raise taxes by only a simple majority in the Legislature. Then they procrastinated until the final two weeks of session to write budget proposals, each which include $900 million of new spending and nearly a billion dollars in tax increases.
In the final days of the regular session, our Republican members waited hours upon hours to vote on legislation as Democrats were sequestered behind closed doors, fighting among themselves over which taxes to raise. Finally, time ran out without an agreement on a budget package.
My point is that it is NOT partisan politics that held up the session. Democrats had enough votes on their own to pass a supplemental budget and adjourn on time WITHOUT A SPECIAL SESSION. Unfortunately, while we waited for them to bring legislation to the floor so that we could wrap up the session on time, Democrats were busy fighting among themselves because “they can't quite agree on the damage they want to do!”
Those aren't my words. They are the words of Seattle Times editorial writer Kate Riley, who wrote a column about the disagreements between members of the majority party that have pushed this session into overtime. Read it here: “Democrats turning on Democrats: There has got to be a better way.”
SPECIAL SESSION CONTINUES WITHOUT AGREEMENT
I want you to know I share your frustration. Republicans have been excluded from the budget negotiations during this special session. We are now limited to waiting for majority Democrats to bring out legislation that we can vote on. This past Saturday, they brought out an entirely new package of close to $800 million in new and increased taxes. Senate Bill 6143 contains 16 different tax increases that would primarily affect businesses and families. Every Republican, including myself, and some Democrats voted no. Yet the tax package passed with a vote of 53-42. It was sent back over to the Senate. However, Senate Democrats want a sales tax increase and they don't agree with the House Democrat proposal. So it seems like we are back to square one.
WE NEED A BUDGET THAT MAKES GOVERNMENT LIVE WITHIN ITS MEANS
So folks, that's the real story behind the scenes.
My Republican colleagues and I are ready to end this special session and go home. But we will also continue to fight against unnecessary and harmful tax increases which will further hurt our economy and families, increase unemployment, and create deeper budget deficits long into the future.
I remain committed to adopting a fiscally-responsible budget that makes government live within its means, as you do at home or work.
So that's why I'm asking for your help. Call the governor, the House speaker and the Senate majority leader. Tell them to “end this special session without tax increases.” The number is 1-800-562-6000. Please do it now!
It's time for the Legislature to finish its business and go home!
I appreciate the honor of representing and serving you. Please call or e-mail my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions.
404 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7828 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000